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    AmP Countdown: Time left to demand that Congress make health care reform pro-life: 2009-11-07 18:00:00 GMT-05:00

    Friday, December 11, 2009

    Commentary: Catholic Politicians Face a Clear Choice in Health Care Debate

    I know it is not up to me to decide these things, but I think this is a very important post, so please bear with me.

    I am involved in the political health care debate every day here in Washington DC, and have been for months.

    The end game for this process is now in sight, so I can write with confidence about something which has been in the back of my mind for some time now.

    If the Democrat health care reform passes, it will pass with three major votes. The first one has already been taken: it was the vote on November 7th when the democrat majority passed health care reform in the House.

    Before that vote was taken, however, the pro-abortion provisions of the bill were fixed by the Stupak amendment. This means that Catholic politicians could claim they were voting for a "pro-life bill."

    But they cannot make the same claim for the next two votes, because this Tuesday Democrat Senators defeated their version of the Stupak amendment (named the Nelson amendment)

    This means future votes to push forward the health care reform are pro-abortion votes, and monumental ones at that.

    The US Bishops, as soon as the Senate pro-life amendment failed, expressed their "deep disappointment" at the news. Cardinal George, the President of the US Bishops, wrote this week:
    "Failure to exclude abortion funding will turn allies into adversaries and require us and others to oppose this bill because it abandons both principle and precedent.”
    It should be remembered that the US bishops have stated on numerous occasions that if the final health care bill does not include Hyde language (represented by the Stupak amendment in the House, and the Nelson amendment in the Senate), then the US Bishops and all serious Catholics must oppose the final bill.

    As I have said, two more votes are required, one in the Senate, and one in the House, before this health care bill goes to President Obama's desk.

    First, as early as Wednesday or Thursday of next week, US Senators will vote to pass their version of health care reform. Second, perhaps before Christmas, the House will vote to confirm the bill passed by the Senate, at which point it will go to President Obama.

    I fully expect the final version of the Senate bill to remain pro-abortion. Furthermore, it is widely being reported that the House will get no chance to address abortion funding in the legislation before it is put to a simple Yes/No vote, which will deliver it to President Obama.

    This means that, in all likelihood, before Christmas, all Catholic members of both the Senate and House will cast a definitive vote for or against the largest single expansion of abortion access and federal funding since Roe v. Wade.

    We have seen isolated cases of brave bishops calling Catholic politicians to task for their support of pro-abortion health care legislation (Bishop Tobin comes first to mind).

    What will be the fallout, I wonder, if Catholics cast the critical votes to authorize this horribly anti-life legislation? Senator Bob Casey in the Senate could be a chief architect in allowing the pro-abortion bill to leave the Senate. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is eager to rubber-stamp that same pro-abortion legislation in the House.

    This scenario leaves three urgent questions:
    • Will Catholic politicians defy the clear moral exhortation of their bishops and pass this anti-life legislation?
    • Will Catholic bishops, who have already bravely defended the interests of unborn children in this debate, continue to take the needed pastoral measures to defend the unborn?
    • Will serious Catholics, who elect these politicians, and wield influence over them, be active in helping them make the right choice and form their consciences objectively?
    It's not up to me to decide these things, but I know where my prayers, hope and actions will be in these next critical weeks. I now I can do three effective things:
    • I can contact my elected representatives through the USCCB action website here.
    • I can also contact my local bishop and (respectfully) ask that he continue to do everything in his power to defend the rights of the unborn through his influence and authority.
    • I can finally - and most importantly - pray and fast for the plight of the unborn this Advent.
    (There is a fourth thing you can do - please help me spread this important message to your Catholic friends via blogs, email, facebook, etc., so we all know what the stakes are as soon as possible.)

    As we prepare to welcome the child Jesus into our hearts this Christmas, let us take concrete and immediate action to see that every unborn child has room at the Inn of the World today.

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    Wednesday, December 09, 2009

    Pope appoints Bishop Daniel Flores to Brownsville, TX

    Christmas has come early this year to the Catholics of South Texas.

    Pope Benedict has named the young (48), charismatic auxiliary bishop of Detroit, Daniel Flores, to be the next bishop of Brownsville, Texas:
    Daniel Ernest Flores was born in Palacios, Texas, August 28, 1961. He studied for the seminary at Holy Trinity Seminary at the University of Dallas, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy and a Master of Divinity degree with a specialty in theology. He was ordained for the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1988.
    Assignments after ordination included vice chancellor of the diocese, 1988-1992, episcopal vicar for priestly formation, 1992-1997, chancellor of the diocese, 2000-2001, vice-rector of St. Mary’s Seminary, Houston 2002-2006, and adjunct professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas School of Theology in Houston (2001-2006).
    Bishop Flores was named an auxiliary bishop of Detroit in 2006.
    In addition to degrees earned before ordination, Bishop Flores also holds licentiate and doctoral degrees in theology from the University of St. Thomas in Urbe (Angelicum) in Rome.
    At the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Bishop Flores has served on the Task Force for Faith Formation and Sacramental Practice.
    Another bishop appointed with a great deal of seminary and educational experience.

    Look at the demographics of the diocese:
    The Diocese of Brownsville has 4,226 square miles. It has a population of 1,170,776 people, with 995,160, or 85 per cent, of them Catholic.
    A million Catholics - most of them of hispanic descent.

    While studying in Detroit I was privileged to have a class with and get to know Bishop Flores. He is a brilliant and convivial man. He is also, in many ways - and I'm being completely serious - a dead ringer for Frank Sinatra (minus the Crooner's well-known moral failings, of course).

    You can read Bishop Flores' farewell message to the Archdiocese of Detroit here.

    All of us in Detroit knew that we wouldn't be able to hold on to Bishop Flores for long, but I am sure we are all happy to see him given a challenging assignment which will make full use of his many talents. Our prayers are with him and the members of the diocese of Brownsville. 

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    Saturday, November 14, 2009

    New arch/bishops for Milwaukee and Fort Wayne-South Bend!

    With Vatican rumors, you win some, and you lose some.

    I was right that a new bishop would be announced for Fort Wayne-South Bend today, and Rocco was right that a new one would be announced for Milwaukee as well.

    I was wrong that Bishop D'Arcy's replacement would be Bishop Thomas Paprocki, an auxiliary bishop in Chicago. The Holy Spirit has other plans for him. 

    I was right back in October to "put my money on" Bishop Jerome Listecki of La Crosse, WI to fill the vacancy in Milwaukee left by Archbishop Dolan's appointment to New York City. 

    But of course, it's not about me - this is about rejoicing with the Catholics of Milwaukee and Fort Wayne-South Bend that they both now have wonderful and worthy successors of the apostles appointed to serve them.

    From the USCCB announcement:
    Pope Benedict XVI has named Bishop Jerome E. Listecki of La Crosse, Wisconsin, 60, as Archbishop of Milwaukee, and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 51, as Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana.
    Archbishop-designate Listecki was born in Chicago, March 12, 1949. He attended Quigley South High School, Loyola University, and St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein, Illinois. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1975, and named an Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago in 2000, and Bishop of La Crosse in 2004. He holds a Doctorate in Canon Law from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas and a Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Gregorian University, both in Rome.
    The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has 4,758 square miles. It has a population of 2,303,859 people, with 643,775, or 26 per cent, of them Catholic.
    [More information on the Milwaukee and La Crosse arch/diocesan websites.]
    Bishop Rhoades was born November 26, 1957, in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania. He studied for the priesthood at St. Charles Seminary, Overbrook, Pennsylvania, and the Gregorian University and was ordained to the priesthood in 1983. He became rector of St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland in 1997, and was named Bishop of Harrisburg in 2004. He holds Licentiates in Canon Law and Sacred Theology from the Gregorian University.
    The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend has a population of 1,262,788 people, with 157,703, or 12 per cent, of them Catholic. [More information on the diocesan website.]
    Whispers also has coverage.

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    Friday, November 13, 2009

    Honor Roll: Bishops who supported traditional marriage in Maine

    I've written before about the hard-fought battle won for traditional marriage in Maine earlier this month, with significant Catholic assistance.

    Tim Drake at NCRegister has the numbers of the top dioceses which supported the Maine efforts financially {and I have added the names of the cardinal or arch/bishop in each diocese}:
    Maine released its campaign finance filings, showing contributors to the Diocese of Portland’s successful effort to prevent the legalization of same-sex “marriage.”
    According to the campaign finance records, nearly five dozen dioceses and bishops made financial contributions to the effort. Among the largest donations were $50,000 donations from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Diocese of Phoenix. 
    Here is the list of the Top 12 Dioceses That Contributed to Support Marriage:
    Phoenix         $50,000 - Bishop Thomas Olmsted
    Philadelphia     $50,000 - Justin Cardinal Rigali
    St. Louis         $10,000 - Archbishop Robert Carlson
    Kansas City, Kan.  $10,000 - Archbishop Joseph Naumann
    Newark         $10,000 - Archbishop John Myers
    Providence       $10,000 - Bishop Thomas Tobin
    Youngstown     $10,000 - Bishop George Murry
    Fall River         $5,000 - Bishop George Coleman
    Rockford         $5,000 - Bishop Thomas Doran
    Crookston       $5,000 - Bishop Michael Hoeppner
    Pittsburgh         $5,000 - Bishop David Zubik
    Arlington         $5,000 - Bishop Paul Loverde
    To see the entire list of campaign contributors, visit here.

    Quite frankly, these are bishops who put their financial resources and personal reputations on the line to defend traditional marriage in this country. Traditional marriage is not a popular issue to defend these days. Just look at the attacks that have been aimed at the Mormons since Proposition 8 passed in California.

    If you live in one of these dioceses (or another diocese that donated, but a lesser sum), please consider contacting your bishop and briefly expressing your gratitude to him.

    I can guarantee these bishops will get angry letters (or worse) from individuals on the opposite side of this issue. 

    The St. Louis Catholic blog, for example, has already detailed the case of the local Saint Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper attacking Archbishop Robert Carlson for supporting the efforts of his brother bishop in Maine to protect marriage. (The Archdiocese has issued a short statement in response here.)

    Also, please continue to show your support for the local bishop in Maine, Bishop Richard Malone

    I'm sure he is getting the brunt of their anger.

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    Thursday, October 29, 2009

    Imperative: US Bishops urge *every* parish to utilize bullet insert on health care reform

    Yesterday I blogged about my claim that "How many bishops support the current health care reform? None of them."

    My claim is born out today by this email sent out by the USCCB Pro-Life Activities secretariat. It represents an unprecedented mobilization of the Catholic faithful on a particular political issue.

    It is simply incredible - the US Bishops want every parish in America to help them get the message out. It explicitly says that individual dioceses ought not to "opt out" of this innitiative.

    I don't care if I overload my bandwidth having indivividuals download these materials - we need to take action, starting in your parish:

    From: Tom Grenchik, Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities

    To: Diocesan Pro-Life Directors & State Catholic Conference Director

    Re: URGENT: Nationwide USCCB Bulletin Insert on Health Care Reform

    Attached [see below], please find an Urgent Memorandum highlighting USCCB plans and requests for diocesan and parish based activation on health care reform.

    The President of the Conference and the Chairmen of the three major USCCB committees engaged in health care reform have written all the bishops and asked that the attached USCCB Nationwide Bulletin Insert on health care reform be printed or hand-stuffed in every parish bulletin and/or distributed in pews or at church entrances as soon as possible.

    Congressional votes may take place as soon as early November. If your Arch/bishop is not in agreement with disseminating the bulletin insert, you will be hearing from his office immediately. You may wish to check with his office ASAP to see how you may be of assistance in distributing the Bulletin Insert, far and wide.

    Tomorrow, the USCCB will be e-mailing these same materials to a large number of parishes across the country, already on a USCCB contact list. The parish list is incomplete, so we will still have to rely on diocesan e-mail systems to reach EVERY parish. Thank you for your great help with this.

    Also included are suggested Pulpit Announcements and a Prayer Petition.

    There is also a copy of a newly-released ad for the Catholic press, which may be printed as flyers for the vestibule or copied on the flip-side of the Bulletin Insert. The flyer/ad directs readers to where they may send their pre-written e-mails to Congress through NCHLA’s Grassroots Action Center. If you wish to sponsor the ad in your local Catholic paper and need a different size, please contact Deirdre McQuade at

    Please encourage parishioners to pray for this effort as well. More information can be found at

    Thank you for your urgent actions and prayers on behalf of this nationwide effort!

    With this email are four attached documents - print these out, share them and take action:
    1. HC Cover Note to Leaders, Final.doc (a digital version of the email above)
    2. HC Bulletin Insert 10-23-09 Final.pdf (the one-stop nationwide parish bulletin insert)
    3. HC Pulpit Announcement & Prayer, Final 1.doc (a how-to for distributing the materials)
    4. HC Ad Saving_Lives_Flyer_FINAL.pdf (a flyer to be placed on bulletin boards, etc.)
    Note especially this Suggested Prayer of the Faithful:
    "That Congress will act to ensure that needed health care reform will truly protect the life, dignity and health care of all and that we will raise our voices to protect the unborn and the most vulnerable and to preserve our freedom of conscience. We pray to the Lord."
    This prayer perfectly illustrates the main themes I have been harping on throughout this debate - that health care reform, as it currently stands, is not truly pro-life and universal, and that it contains no respect for (Catholic) conscience protection. These are glaring shortcomings that urgently need to be addressed!

    Action items:
    • Please ask your pastor if he intends to use these materials. If he is not aware of them - forward them to this post on AmP so he has access to them. Or, print them out and bring them to him personally.
    • Perform the action items described in the materials I've provided in this USCCB bulletin insert.
    • Pray that health care reform not be passed unless it is truly universal and pro-life.

    Health care reform could be voted on as early as next week. These materials need to be in the hands of Catholics starting this weekend. Thank you for your efforts in serving our bishops and getting the word out. Godspeed.

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    Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    Today: A new bishop for Milwaukee?

    The buzz is growing that archdiocese of Milwaukee will be the next episcopal vacancy filled by Rome - it has been without an archbishop since its former Archbishop Timothy Dolan was moved to New York City.

    The local papers have been chattering about it for the last 24 hours, which is normally a sign. They are, however, mostly relying on Vatican rumor blog Whispers in the Loggia. Here are Rocco's picks:
    Bishops Gerald Kicanas of Tucson (currently vice-president of the US bishops), Blase Cupich of Rapid City, Jerome Listecki of LaCrosse and Milwaukee's administrator, Aux. Bishop William Callahan OFM Conv.
    I would disagree that Aux. Bp. Callahan is likely - that's what I'm hearing, at least. [update - I would also be surprised if it was Kicanas.]

    Other names that keep appearing on my shortlist are Bishops Robert Finn, Michael Jackels, Alexander Sample, and David Ricken.

    I'd put my money on Bishop Listecki of LaCrosse, but with so many names floating around, I'm still far from confident. We'll just have to see who the Holy Spirit has in mind.

    And in the meantime - have you heard anything?

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    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Anti-Catholicism: Experts continue to question Catholics on the Supreme Court

    A sad reminder of what Catholics in public office still face:

    U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito voiced frustration Tuesday over what he called persistent questions about the court's Roman Catholic majority.

    Alito aired the topic in a speech to an Italian-American law group in Philadelphia.

    "There has been so much talk lately about the number of Catholics serving on the Supreme Court," Alito said in a speech to the Justinian Society. "This is one of those questions that does not die."

    Alito complained about "respectable people who have seriously raised the questions in serious publications about whether these individuals could be trusted to do their jobs."

    He said he thought the Constitution settled the question long ago with its guarantee of religious freedom.

    Alito, 59, the son of an Italian immigrant, is one of six justices on the nine-member court who were raised Catholic, including new Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

    ... The Roman Catholic Church endorses positions on several high-profile legal issues, including abortion, the death penalty and gay marriage. Some commentators have argued that Catholics in the court's conservative voting bloc — Chief John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Alito — are likely to oppose abortion or otherwise apply Catholic teachings to their rulings. (AP)

    Three quick thoughts:
    • The elephant in the room here is social issues such as abortion and gay marriage. No one would complain about Catholics stacking the supreme court bench if they all were liberal on their views about these issues. No one complains about how many Catholics Obama has appointed to his administration, because all of his appointments agree with his liberal views on these issues. As I've said before, the kind of Catholic the President likes, is a bad Catholic (a "bad Catholic" is someone who actively dissents from the Church's teaching).
    • Catholics on the supreme court who oppose abortion and same-sex marriage do not do so because they are Catholic, they do this because they can think. Catholic opposition to practices which harm human life and society are enlightened by faith through reason, not dictated by faith in opposition to reason. The bottom line here is that you don't have to be Catholic to oppose abortion and same-sex marriage. But it can help your conviction.
    • The recent case of Sonia Sotomayor's nomination is a perfect illustration of the ulterior purpose behind this stupid claim that there are "too many Catholics on the supreme court." The fact that Sotomayor promised to uphold the unjust precedent established by Roe v. Wade - and was never fundamentally challenged to express her opinion about homosexual marriage - guaranteed that pundits would not go after her too much for her religion. If she promised to uphold the natural law conclusions about the dignity of human life and the uniqueness of heterosexual marriage, things would have been very different.

    Bottom line: there is no reason to accuse Catholics of being bad for America. Such a charge is always a cheap-shot which ignores the substantive arguments that Catholics bring into the debate, and the long tradition of public service that today's Catholics are proud to continue.

    It's time to face our arguments, not accuse our religion.

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    Tuesday, October 20, 2009

    Anglo-Vatican announcement has important American/African dimension

    The Anglican Communion includes over 80 million persons worldwide.

    I'll leave it to others to look at the possibilities for reconciliation and communion with the Catholic Church in Africa, where the Anglican Communion is on average far more conservative than their British counterparts.

    But let us not forget the large numbers of Anglicans (Episcopalians) in the United States - well over two million. Episcopalians in the United States are not all of one mold, but among their number there are many traditional "high Church" individuals, who would be most disposed to reunification with Rome. There are already numerous "Anglican-rite" parishes in the United States, which allow for the inclusion of some elements of traditional Anglican prayer in the Catholic Mass.

    Cardinal George - President of the US Bishops - has released a statement to reflect on the US dimension of the decisions announced in Rome and London today which I include in full:

    Today the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has received word of the new Provision in the form of an apostolic constitution issued by the Holy See for the reception into full communion with the Catholic Church of groups from the Anglican tradition. The USCCB stands ready to collaborate in the implementation of that Provision in our country.

    This step by the Holy See is in response to a number of requests received in Rome from groups of Anglicans seeking corporate reunion. The application of the new Provision recognizes the desire of some Anglicans (Episcopalians) to live the Catholic faith in full, visible communion with the See of Peter, while at the same time retaining some elements of their traditions of liturgy, spirituality and ecclesial life which are consistent with the Catholic faith.

    This Provision, at the service of the unity of the Church, calls us as well to join our voices to the Priestly Prayer of Jesus that ‘all may be one’ (Jn 17:21) as we seek a greater communion with all our brothers and sisters with whom we share Baptism. For forty-five years, our Episcopal Conference has engaged in ecumenical dialogue with The Episcopal Church, which is the historic Province of the Anglican communion in North America. The Catholic Bishops of the United States remain committed to seeking deeper unity with the members of The Episcopal Church by means of theological dialogue and collaboration in activities that advance the mission of Christ and the welfare of society."

    I certainly intend to do my part - there is an English pub down the street and this evening I'm going down there to have a few pints in celebration of the 1st annual "Anglo-Catholic Reunification Day."

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    Diocese of Wilmington, DE files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

    From the Associated Press:

    A bankruptcy filing by the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington was the best way to ensure reconciliation and compensation for all victims of clergy sexual abuse in the diocese, the bishop said Monday.

    The diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection late Sunday after hours of settlement negotiations failed with about a dozen alleged victims, including eight plaintiffs whose cases were scheduled for trial. More than 100 other alleged victims are pursuing compensation through dispute resolution instead of trials.

    "It was clear to us in our negotiations that the amount of money that was being sought by the early victims and the finite amount that we had ... was not going to work," said the Most Rev. W. Francis Malooly, the bishop of the diocese.

    ... The Wilmington diocese, which serves about 230,000 Catholics in Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland, is the seventh U.S. Catholic diocese to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since the church abuse scandal erupted seven years ago in Boston.

    Others are Davenport, Iowa; Fairbanks, Alaska; Portland, Ore.; San Diego; Spokane, Wash.; and Tucson, Ariz. The San Diego case was dismissed.

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    Overview: New bishop appointment possibilities

    [The nifty photo to the right is actually a working graphic of the Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States.]

    The past seven days have been overactive when it comes to appointing new bishops for the United States.

    Last Thursday three new bishops were appointed - a new ordinary of Duluth, MN, a new ordinary in Pueblo, CO, and an auxiliary to Providence, RI.

    Yesterday a Monday appointment was announced to the diocese of Cheyenne, Wyoming (new bishops are typically announced for the United States on Tuesdays, after all).

    (I'm kind of kicking myself over that last one because I actually had a very strong tip that it would happen this week. But, because I figured it would wait until Tuesday, and because I don't like blogging over the weekends (and especially Sunday, of course!) - I decided to wait to talk about it until Monday morning. Well, I didn't get to it on Monday until the appointment had already come across on the wire.)

    Well, to get back in front of the prevailing winds of new bishop appointments, let me mention a couple things on deep background. Two dioceses in particular are on my radar:

    • In the diocese of Fort Wayne/South Bend, Indiana - currently held by Bishop John D'Arcy, and in which the University of Notre Dame resides - I've been convinced that the new appointment has been picked since early this month. My most current update is that, while the Vatican wants to make the announcement, they are deferring to the request of Bishop D'Arcy that the announcement not be made until the current Bishop's appeal concludes. I'm aware of other instances where Rome has chosen to delay announcing the appointment of a new bishop until the current one has had an opportunity to see to pressing local issues, such as the raising of funds or the settling of diocesan business.

    • Across the country in the Archdiocese of Seattle, I'm being reminded that Archbishop Alexander Brunett reached retirement age and submitted his resignation in January. It was accepted and he was asked to remain until a replacement could be chosen and installed. Some recent past practice has been for the Bishop of Helena Montana to be sent as the replacement of Seattle's Archbishop with the Helena Bishop being replaced by Seattle's auxilliary Bishop. Seattle currently has two young auxiliary bishops, and the bishop of Helena (George Thomas) is still under 60.

    In the wider picture, there are currently six dioceses with no bishop currently serving, and six more dioceses with bishops serving past the mandatory age of retirement.

    So we'll see - today is Tuesday - maybe Rome will go for a solid six appointments in six days!

    (Please note that at no time in this post have I created three pairs of six numbers. Catholics are against that sort of thing.)

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    Sunday, October 18, 2009

    Important: Abp. Burke appointed to Congregation of Bishops

    Good news for the Church in the United States, and the world, as reported by Whispers:
    [Yesterday], B16 named the church's "chief justice" Archbishop Raymond Burke to the membership of the Congregation for Bishops, giving the 61 year-old prelate a seat at the dicastery's all-important Thursday Table, whose votes recommend prospective appointees to the Pope.

    As a result, Burke's impact on the process and its outcomes could be felt for two decades; normally renewed on a five-yearly basis, Curial memberships automatically cease at age 75 for bishops and 80 for the college of cardinals, which the Wisconsin-born prefect of the Apostolic Signatura is likely to join at the next consistory, expected to take place sometime in mid-2010.

    ... Though it can only be gauged with time, the emergence of a potential "Burke effect" on Stateside appointments bears watching.
    Any move that places Abp. Burke in a more prominent oversight role over the appointment of bishops in the United States is a good thing.

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    Thursday, October 15, 2009

    Bishop Tri-Appointment Thursday!

    Three new bishops appointed for the United States today!
    Pope Benedict XVI has named Father Paul Sirba of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as bishop of Duluth, Minnesota; Father Fernando Isern of the Archdiocese of Miami, 51, as Bishop of Pueblo, Colorado; and Msgr. Robert C. Evans, 62, of the [diocese] of Providence, Rhode Island, as Auxiliary Bishop of Providence. The pope also accepted the resignation of Bishop Arthur Tafoya, 76, from the pastoral governance of the Pueblo Diocese.

    The Duluth Diocese includes 22,354 square miles. The total population of the diocese is estimated at 439,172 people, with 66,007, or 15 percent, of them Catholic.

    The Pueblo Diocese includes 48,155 square miles. The total population of the diocese is estimated at 621,000 people, with 96,904, or 16 percent, of them Catholic

    The Providence [diocese] includes 1,085 square miles. The total population of the diocese is estimated at 1,057,832 people, with 624,120, or 59 percent, of them Catholic
    Whispers has details.

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    Thursday, October 08, 2009

    Important: US Bishops taking the gloves off on health care reform

    I'm literally about to step into a car and drive to Ft. Collins, CO tonight, where I will be presenting a speech to young adults on "Catholic Principles of Health Care Reform" (encore performance tomorrow night in Denver, details have been posted), but wanted beforehand to update AmP readers on an important development.

    This from religion and politics reporters Dan Gilgoff:
    After alleging that the House healthcare bill includes an abortion mandate and taxpayer-funded abortion, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have kept quiet as the Senate Finance Committee has wrestled with its version of healthcare reform these last couple of weeks. But in a letter to House leaders today, the bishops make clear that they're opposed to both bills as they currently stand—and skeptical that their grievances will be addressed.
    Abortion continues to be the top concern. Here's an excerpt [of the bishops' letter]:
        We continue to urge you to:
        1. Exclude mandated coverage for abortion, and incorporate longstanding policies against abortion funding and in favor of conscience rights. No one should be required to pay for or participate in abortion. It is essential that the legislation clearly apply to this new program longstanding and widely supported federal restrictions on abortion funding and mandates, and protections for rights of conscience. No current bill meets this test....
        We sincerely hope that the legislation will not fall short of our criteria. However, we remain apprehensive when amendments protecting freedom of conscience and ensuring no taxpayer money for abortion are defeated in committee votes. If acceptable language in these areas cannot be found, we will have to oppose the health care bill vigorously.
    Read full letter here.
    John Jalsevac at LifeSiteNews has a summary, as does George Stephanapoulos from a political perspective.

    As I said in my post title - this has the feeling of "taking the gloves off". Finally. Good.

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    Wednesday, October 07, 2009

    New Bishop: Msgr. Hebda gets hoisted into Gaylord, MI!

    I'm hearing very good things about the Monsignor appointed to be the next bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord today.

    From the USSCB website:
    Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Bishop Patrick R. Cooney of Gaylord, Michigan, and named as his successor, Msgr. Bernard A. Hebda, 50, a Pittsburgh priest and Under-Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.
    ...  Bernard Hebda was born in Pittsburgh, September 3, 1959. He attended South Hills Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, Harvard University, where he was awarded a Master of Arts degree in 1980, and Columbia University, where he was awarded a Juris Doctor degree in 1983.
    He attended North American College in Rome and earned a Doctor of Canon Law degree from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas in 1990. 
    ... yet another Canon lawyer appointed to be a new bishop. A canon law degree is almost a litmus test for becoming a bishop these days.
    Here is a map of the Gaylord, MI diocese:
    "The Gaylord Diocese includes 11,171 square miles. The total population of the diocese is estimated at 510,532 people, with 66,217, or 13 percent, of them Catholic."
    The Gaylord diocesan website (which includes a fuller bio of Msgr. Hebda) says a news conference was hosted this morning. It has not yet been announced when his episcopal ordination and installation will be. 
    The Msgr. Hebda quote of the day:
    "Never in my wildest dreams have I ever imagined that I would one day be the Bishop of Gaylord. I can remember being fascinated by a display of Bishop Baraga’s deerskin chasuble and having the greatest admiration for him."
    Ah, dearskin chasubles - it's a different world up there. :)

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    Tuesday, October 06, 2009

    Picture: Red Mass in DC attended by six Catholic SCOTUS members

    Local DC blog Snark Infested provides photos from this years Red Mass (Mass for lawyers), where all six of the Catholic Supreme Court Justices of the United States were in attendance I believe:

    Reports from the ground indicate that yes (as picture above) - the most recent Supreme Court confirmation, Sonia Sotomayor, was in attendance (even though I hear she has not attended Mass in years), as was Catholic Vice-President Joe Biden. The homily was preached by Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston-Houston (update - here is the full text of Cardinal DiNardo's homily).

    Notably, no mention of the duty of judges to uphold the natural law teaching on Traditional (i.e., heterosexual) marriage was mentioned, which I think is dissapointing considering our political climate.
    Cardinal Rigali, meanwhile, issued a "powerful statement" on Respect Life Sunday.

    Did your priest preach on life issues this previous Sunday?

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    Wednesday, September 23, 2009

    List: *44* Bishops against Obamacare (and counting!)

    From time to time AmP has compiled (with the help of readers like you) summaries of statements by the American heirarchy on important current issues.

    There is now a growing list of bishops across the United States who have preached or written about their prudential opposition to the current health care proposal in Congress.

    I will update this post as time goes on....
    1. Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, PA
    2. and Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, NY
    3. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, CO
    4. Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs, CO
    5. Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, NY
    6. Bishop Walker Nickless of Sioux City, IA
    7. Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, ND
    8. Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, IA
    9. Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, KS
    10. and Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, MO
    11. Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul-Minneapolis, MN
    12. Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington, VA
    13. Bishop Robert Guglielmone of Charleston, SC
    14. Bishop Richard Lennon of Cleveland, OH (PDF)
    15. Bishop Peter Jugis of Charlotte, NC
    16. and Bishop Michael Burbidge of Raleigh, NC
    17. Bishop Jerome Listecki of La Crosse, WI (PDF)
    18. Bishop Blase Cupich of Rapid City, SD (PDF)
    19. Bishop Donald Trautman of Eire, PA (PDF)
    20. Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh, PA
    21. Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, CT
    22. Bishop Thomas Doran of Rockford, IL
    23. Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, NJ (part II here)
    24. Bishop Anthony Taylor of Little Rock, AR
    25. Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, WI
    26. Bishop Paul Coakley of Salina, KS
    27. Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio, TX
    28. and Bishop Oscar Cantu of San Antonio, TX
    29. Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, NE
    30. Bishop Alex Sample of Marquette, MI
    31. Bishop Victor Galeone of St. Augustine, FL
    32. Bishop David Choby of Nashville, TN
    33. Bishop Gerald Barnes of San Bernardino, CA
    34. Bishop Peter Sartain of Joliet, IL
    35. Daniel Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, TX
    36. Francis Cardinal George of Chicago, IL
    37. Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Lousville, KY
    38. Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas, TX
    39. Archbishop Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore, MD (PDF)
    40. Bishop Joseph Galente of Camden, NJ
    41. and Bishop John Smith of Trenton, NJ
    42. Bishop Jerome Listecki of La Crosse, WI (PDF)
    43. Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando, FL
    44. Bishop James Johnson of Springfield - Cape Girardeau

    Please send me tips at "thomas [at]". Thank you!

    You may also consider respectfully asking your bishop to preach or write about health care if he has not already done so. This is an important issue and we ought to hear what our pastors have to say about it!

    [photo credit -]

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    Tuesday, September 01, 2009

    Open topic: Bishop Joseph Martino resigns

    Today Bishop Joseph Martino of Scranton, PA resigned, confirming a report I mentioned last week.

    Unfortunately my current level of obligations prevents me from examining the decision in detail (for that, see Rocco's reporting), but I think it is important the AmP community is aware of it and discussing the fall-out.

    Bishop Martino is a hated man for a simple reason - he has attempted to be faithful to the teachings of the Church, and to his episcopal vows.

    A brief report from the Associated Press:
    A Roman Catholic bishop in northeastern Pennsylvania says he is stepping down for health reasons.

    Scranton Bishop Joseph Martino says he suffers from insomnia and crippling physical fatigue.

    The 63-year-old leader of the Diocese of Scranton is resigning more than a decade before the usual retirement age of 75. He had led the diocese since 2003.

    Martino had been heavily criticized by parishioners who felt alienated by his imperious leadership style and staunch defense of Catholic orthodoxy. Supporters say Martino was simply enforcing church doctrine.

    Pope Benedict XVI appointed Cardinal Justin Rigali, who leads the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, to oversee the Scranton diocese until the Vatican appoints a new bishop.
    A recap of his "controversial" actions as a bishop, as reflected by the Religion News Service:
    The bishop burst into the national scene during the 2008 presidential campaign, when he frequently criticized Catholics -- including fellow bishops -- who suggested that abortion was only one of many issues by which to assess candidates.

    Shortly after the election last November, Martino stood on the floor of the bishops' meeting in Baltimore and pledged to withhold Communion from Biden, who was raised in Scranton, because he supports abortion rights.

    Martino later issued similar threats to Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., after he voted to confirm Kathleen Sebelius, who supports abortion rights, to head the Department of Health and Human Services.

    Martino also warned Scranton politicians that he would close the diocese's cathedral on St. Patrick's Day if they honored any politicians who support abortion rights; he tried to shut down a local Catholic college's diversity program after it hosted a gay rights advocate; and he refused to recognize a local Catholic teachers union. He also presided over mass consolidations of schools and parishes, many of which were contentious.

    "By the world's standards, perhaps I have not been successful,"
    Martino said Monday. "But I have been faithful."

    David Gibson - a religion reporter with whom I have disagreed in the past - writes in Politics Daily:
    But church insiders say Martino had also worn out his welcome with his brother bishops and the Vatican. So his resignation may be further evidence that the U.S. hierarchy is divided between moderate voices and a more strident conservative minority that is struggling in the wake of Obama's success with Catholic voters.

    Liberal Catholics are taking Bishop Martino's resignation as a vindication of their position, and as a sign from within the Bishops conference and from the Vatican that Bishop Martino's pastoral "style" is unnaceptable:

    But it was an event in late October last year, on the eve of the presidential vote, as religious rhetoric was growing white-hot, that may have pushed Martino over the line in the eyes of many.

    A parish was holding a regular voter-education forum on the election, featuring discussion of a document, "Faithful Citizenship," the election guide endorsed almost unanimously by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, or USCCB. Martino showed up at the parish hall unannounced, causing a stir. Then he took the microphone and proceeded to critique the organizers for not using his own letter on abortion as the basis of the discussion.

    When a nun at the forum reminded Martino about the document of the enitre bishops conference Martino responded, "No USCCB document is relevant in this diocese. The USCCB doesn't speak for me," Martino declared. "The only relevant document ... is my letter. There is one teacher in this diocese, and these points are not debatable."

    It was a bizarre episode and one that not only capped Martino's reputation as a divisive figure, but also seemed to set him against his other bishops -- a stance that may have been the ultimate cause of his downfall. Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia was named Monday by the pope to be the temporary administrator for the Scranton diocese, which comes under Rigali's purview.

    Whatever the ins and outs of the internal church maneuvering, the upshot is that a leading voice in the anti-Obama wing of the church hierarchy has been silenced while both Obama and Biden continue to take center stage.

    .... In addition, there are signs that some bishops are growing uneasy with the more strident and even partisan tone of many church leaders, especially in the wake of the shooting of Kansas abortionist George Tiller. The opposition of some bishops to health care reform -- which the pope has declared a fundamental human right -- as well as fallout from the fierce opposition by some to Obama's appearance at Notre Dame in May has also given some bishops pause.

    .... "By the world's standards perhaps I have not been successful here," Martino concluded. "But I did what I thought was right.

    Clearly not everyone agreed with that self-assessment, from Martino's fellow bishops on up to the pope. Where the hierarchy, and American Catholics, go from here is the question that remains unanswered.
    Again, it pains me to be currently unavailable to pause and reflect on this episode at length, but in the meantime, I'd invite AmP readers to fill in the context and add their helpful observations to a debate that is shaping up to be central in defining the identity of American Catholics in the years to come.

    For those who are interested, there is a Facebook group "I Support Bishop Joseph Martino" which has almost 500 members. I'm a member.

    Photo: CNA.

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    Saturday, August 22, 2009

    Hope: Record Aggie Vocations

    Sorry to post back-to-back disturbing stories, let's not forget that God is always at work and mercifully bestowing His grace to us. Sometimes this takes a concrete manifestation in vocations to the priesthood and religious life, as it happening in "Aggie Catholics" neck of the woods.

    How are vocations doing in your parish, community and diocese? Let's share our stories!

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    Tuesday, August 11, 2009

    US Map: where be the Catholics?

    They be here....

    Via Michael Paulson's Articles of Faith. The Southeast is mostly protestant. Mormonism is focused in Utah, and atheists hug the upper Northwest and Northeast. Such a cold, remote way of life. ;)

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    Tuesday, July 28, 2009

    From A-to-Z: Msgr, Luis Zarama named first Aux. Bishop of Atlanta in fifty years

    A day late, but (hopefully) not a nickel short. From the Archdiocese of Atlanta, happy tidings that, for the first time in over 50 years, Atlanta will have an auxiliary bishop:

    "Pope Benedict XVI has named Monsignor Luis Rafael Zarama, 50, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, to be auxiliary bishop of Atlanta.

    .... The Atlanta Archdiocese has a population of 6,773,819 people, with 750,000, or 11 percent, of them Catholic."

    The episcopal ordination will take place on Tuesday, Sep. 29th.

    Yet another canon lawyer made a bishop. Seminarians - take note - if the bishop says he plans to have you study canon law, well, you best figure out what size miter fits you while you're at it. ;-)

    Whispers has encyclopedic info on this story, from (A)tlanta to (Z)arama!

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    Friday, July 10, 2009

    Picture: Obama's gift to Pope Benedict - St. John Neumann's stole

    In about an hour Barack Obama will present this gift to Pope Benedict XVI:
    The owners of the DiCocco Family St. Jude Shop are getting to be experts at this. When there's a presentation for the pope, call the store in Havertown.

    Twice in the last 15 months, the store owners have been tapped for their Benedict XVI know-how.

    The first time, they helped supply a specially made chair the pope used during a U.S. visit. This time, they assisted the White House in finding a gift for him.

    That present will be given to Benedict as part of President Obama's visit to the Vatican tomorrow.

    The box will contain a stole that had been draped around the enshrined body of St. John Neumann in Philadelphia for nearly 20 years.
    AmP reader John clarifies:
    I suppose the headline isn't wrong, but I wouldn't describe this as "St. John Neumann's stole" since he didn't wear it while he was alive. As I understand it, his body was first displayed in the '60s when the cause for his canonization was underway. When the shrine was renovated in the late '80s, they dressed it in modern, polyester, Gothic-style vestments. Last year, Cardinal Rigali had them replaced with silk Roman-style vestments like the saint would have worn when he was alive. I guess the stole the president is giving to the Holy Father is classified as a third-class relic, which ain't nothin', but it struck me as odd. Still, I guess it's better than the box-set of DVDs he gave the British PM (which couldn't even be watched on the other side of the pond).
    I wonder what other gifts Obama has brought for the Holy Father?

    You can find out more about the stole here at the Redemptorists website.

    Fr. Z., I might add, is none too impressed.

    During a recent trip to Baltimore I actually visited one of the parishes St. John Neumann pastored. Very cool. It's a small (Catholic) world.

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    Thursday, July 02, 2009

    Report: Obama meets with Catholic reporters

    As I reported earlier today, this morning Obama met with representatives of Catholic newspapers, and CNS has a report.

    The list of organizations in attendance was a who's-who list of liberal Catholic print publications, with just enough Conservative publishers to appear balanced (actually, just one - the National Catholic Register, because Vatican Radio isn't American and CNS is USCCB-sponsored, and therefore an obvious choice). 

    Anyway, not only were liberal publications National Catholic Reporter and America magazine invited (which I predicted), but also Commonweal and Catholic Digest. A religion reporter from Washington Post was invited as well. Of course, no invitation was extended to Catholic World Report or Our Sunday Visitor - they might ask awkward questions, you see. 

    As for what was said, it is so discouraging to see that Obama continues to bring up the example of Cardinal Bernardin unchallenged. Today he told the Catholic reporters that "his encounters with the cardinal continue to influence him, particularly [the cardinal's] "seamless garment" approach to a multitude of social justice issues." 

    Obviously, Obama is choosing to be selectively influenced, because Cardinal Bernardin himself went on record with the National Catholic Register in 1988 and said: ""I don't see how you can subscribe to the consistent ethic and ... [feel] that abortion is a 'basic right' of the individual."

    Cardinal Bernardin went on to say in that same interview:
    "I know that some people on the left, if I may use that label, have used the consistent ethic to give the impression that the abortion issue is not all that important anymore, that you should be against abortion in a general way but that there are more important issues, so don't hold anybody's feet to the fire just on abortion. That's a misuse of the consistent ethic, and I deplore it."
    Now, if ever there was a golden opportunity to ask Obama what he would say in response to these words of Cardinal Bernardin's, it was this morning when the current publisher of the same magazine which originally published the Cardinal's words - Fr. Owen Kearns of the National Catholic Register - was seated at a table where Obama, once again, began to claim the mantle of Cardinal Bernardin.

    ... but I bet you it didn't happen. And that's why people like me are not invited to Obama's meetings. Because there are some questions he can't handle, and his team knows who to invite to ensure those questions don't get asked.

    Some "listening session."

    update: National Catholic Register's Tim Drake with Fr. Owen Kearns take on the meeting. Each participant was allowed to ask one question. I'd like to hear what was asked, and how Obama responded.

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    Tuesday, June 30, 2009

    Photo: Five new American Archbishops

    Sometimes it's simply impossible to keep up on all the news. One of the stories that slipped through my fingers this week was the donation by Pope Benedict of palliums to *five* new American archbishops yesterday. CNS has a report.

    From Left: Archbishops Timothy Dolan of New York, Gregory Aymond of New Orleans, Robert Carlson of St Louis, George Lucas of Omaha, and Allen Vigneron of Detroit.

    I wonder if five is a record for a single year?

    Ph/t: Whispers, which also has extensive coverage

    Photo credit: Joanna Molloy of the New York Daily News

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    Saturday, May 09, 2009

    Text: Archbishop Burke's Keynote Address on the teachings of the Catholic Church

    Life Site News has the full text of Archbishop Burke's keynote address delivered yesterday at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. As I said yesterday: "I think Abp. Burke has provided Catholics in America with a comprehensive manifesto for action in the coming year. I think his speech will have wide, beneficial consequences, or at least I pray that it does." I think it's required reading for Catholics in America.

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    Monday, May 04, 2009

    Map & Statistics: 1 in 3 Dioceses are critical of the Notre Dame invite

    [Diocese are marked in black if they have released a statement. update: Jefferson City added.]

    By my updating count, 66 bishops have commented in public (and critically) about Notre Dame's decision to invite Barack Obama for commencement and also give him an honorary degree.

    There are 195 dioceses in the United States. That means that among US bishops who are the head of a diocese, about 1/3 of them are against this decision.

    Plus, I can't find one bishop who has gone on record supporting the decision. Just something to ponder in the 13 days ahead. Ponder seriously.

    Action item: Check your diocesan newspaper archives/website to see if your bishop has spoken.

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    Friday, April 24, 2009

    Text: CUA President's Homily at the 2009 Cardinal's Dinner

    For the last 20 years the Cardinals of the Catholic Church in America have gathered for one evening, to help support the mission of the Catholic University of America.
    Today Fr. David O'Connell gave the homily in Houston, Texas, presenting his vision of Catholic education. AmP is privileged to provide the full text:

    Homily for the 20th Annual American Cardinals Dinner: Co-Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

    This is a great passage in the Gospel of John (John 6: 1-15). It presents one of the “seven signs” found in his Gospel: the wedding feast of Cana; Jesus’ cure of the centurion’s son; his healing of the paralytic; Jesus’ walking on the water; his restoring sight to the man born blind; the raising of Lazarus from the dead and, here, Jesus’ miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fishes. This particular “sign” is the only miracle story that appears in each of the four gospels and so it is worth our special attention.

    The passage opens noting the crowds following Jesus. It is obvious that he had already established a reputation for himself that had captured their attention. The crowds following him, here and elsewhere in the Gospels, were --- more often than not --- merely “sign seekers” not true believers. They were not “convinced;” their hearts were not really touched by the preaching and message of Jesus but, rather, by the delivery and the spectacle. They witnessed these great “signs” along the way and were hoping for more.

    Every time I read or hear this Gospel, some different part of it, some different phrase stands out. This evening, that phrase might actually have passed us by without much notice like a “throw-away line” in some familiar story. When confronted with the immensity of the crowd, Jesus --- whom John tells us knew exactly what he was about to do --- (Jesus) asks Philip how they were going to provide for the huge crowd. Andrew then jumps in and says we have someone in our midst, “a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish but what good are these for so many?” I can just imagine Jesus smiling at him. Without hesitation, Jesus responds with the phrase that interests me. Jesus says to Philip and Andrew, “Have the people recline.”

    Now, you might be thinking to yourself, with all that is going in this Gospel passage, with all the possible things to consider, why is that phrase so particularly interesting? Let me tell you why.

    When Jesus asks that crowds recline, to sit down, he is indicating a number of things. First, that despite their great numbers, he is not going to turn them away. Second, that something is going to happen. Finally, that whatever is about to happen will involve them.

    Jesus “knew what he was going to do,” he was not going to dismiss them or turn them away. He “went up on the mountain” as he frequently did and sat down himself, taking the posture of a teacher. This story, this miracle, like all the others, was to be a “teachable moment.” And he has them all sit down, taking the posture of disciples, of students, of learners. Something is going to happen, something that involves them.

    Jesus’ miracle is not some kind of magic trick. He takes something they already have there with them, in fact he takes all that they have, the only thing they have --- five barley loaves and two fish --- and he feeds them with it, he satisfies them. In fact, although John tells us “they had had their fill,” there was plenty left over. But until the “people reclined,” until they sat down to watch, until they depended upon him for what they truly needed, until they opened themselves to what he had to offer, until they ate as much as they could, until they realized that there was still more --- that nothing should be wasted, this huge and unruly crowd of “sign seekers” could never experience that conversion of that “teachable moment” that enabled them to move beyond the spectacle of it all to say, this Jesus is “truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”

    That is what Catholic education --- especially Catholic higher education ---should do, that is the miracle it should work through the education and environment it provides. When the students recline, when they sit before their teachers --- whether they be professors or chaplains or administrators or staff --- they should expect that something is going to happen, something that will involve them: Jesus, truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world, will come into their minds and hearts and lives; Jesus will take what they already have and bring, and through our Catholic universities and colleges, will make it even more. Our students should become the bread that is then multiplied and given away, witnessing to Christ, witnessing to the Church, witnessing to the truth --- because of what we teach, because of what we affirm, because of what we support. If Christ does not “happen” in their lives, if the Church does not inspire them in their lives through our Catholic universities and colleges, Christ hasn’t failed, the Church hasn’t failed --- we have failed. We should not fail, we cannot fail, we must not fail even though many things today tempt us to compromise our identity and mission and purpose.

    When Pope Benedict XVI spoke on the campus of The Catholic University of America one year ago last Friday, he called Catholic education “a powerful instrument of hope.” He reminded us that our Catholic educational institutions are “places to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth.”

    Our Catholic universities and colleges have much in common with that mountainside scene along the Sea of Galilee in John’s Gospel. The living God whom we --- as they --- encounter in Jesus Christ multiplies what we have and fills us up, transforms us, and makes us overflow with a bread that the world cannot give.

    “Have the people recline” in this Easter Season so that we may all realize the miracles that have been given to us and the many more that lie ahead for those who believe. Amen.

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    Thursday, April 23, 2009

    Memphis: How not to do Catholic ministry to homosexual persons

    Someone asked me to visit "Catholic Ministry with Gay & Lesbian Persons" in the Diocese of Memphis.

    I found three red flags:
    1. Its mission: "The Catholic Ministry with Gay and Lesbian Persons affirms that all the baptized, in the diversity of our sexual orientation, are called to full participation in the life, worship and mission of the Church. The ministry fosters inclusivity, mutual understanding and appreciation of all persons by promoting hospitality, education and support."
    2. What is notably missing from this entire news section ... any criticism of gay lifestyle and activities or acknowledgement that homosexual acts are not a path to holiness.
    3. What they consider to be good resources ... Joan Chittister? "Can My Son Be Gay and Catholic? The answer is Yes. "? These general intentions "for inclusion"?

    Am I being unfair?

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    Abp. Chaput credited for CO death penalty repeal vote

    Archbishop Chaput ... not a one-trick pony (despite what some people try to claim):
    The Colorado House yesterday voted 33-32 to repeal the state's death penalty. The measure now goes to the Senate. An interesting bit of drama occurred on the floor during the vote and only the Durango Herald has picked up on it:
    Debate lasted only a few minutes Tuesday, apparently because most of the 65 representatives had made up their minds. All except Ed Vigil.

    The freshman Democrat from Fort Garland sat still as the House's electronic board tallied the vote - a 32-32 tie.

    Vigil, a former district attorney's investigator, thinks the death penalty is a useful tool. In a 2007 case, Jose Luis Rubi-Nava confessed to killing his girlfriend in Douglas County by dragging her behind his car. The threat of the death penalty secured Rubi-Nava's plea, Vigil said.

    "As soon as the death penalty became part of the equation, he pled guilty and got a life sentence," he said.

    But Vigil also was thinking about moral appeals he had heard, including from Archbishop Charles Chaput, the senior Roman Catholic clergyman in Colorado.

    Vigil bit his lip and ran a hand back through his hair. Other House members stood up and looked his way as a silent minute dragged by. At last, he reached across the desk and pushed the green button for "yes."

    The death penalty repeal passed 33-32.
    Ph/t: The Catholic Key.

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    Tuesday, April 07, 2009

    Info: So how does a bishop get chosen in the United States?

    The USCCB has released a fascinating PDF document as a media backgrounder, explaining the step-by-step process that goes on behind the scenes before a new bishop is appointed to a US diocese:

    The ultimate decision in appointing bishops rests with the Pope, and he is free to select anyone he chooses. But how does he know whom to select?

    The process for selecting candidates for the episcopacy normally begins at the diocesan level andworks its way through a series of consultations until it reaches Rome. It is a process bound by strict confidentiality and involves a number of important players – the most influential being the apostolic nuncio, the Congregation for Bishops, and the pope. It can be a time consuming process, often taking eight months or more to complete. While there are distinctions between the first appointment of a priest as a bishop and a bishop's later transfer to another diocese or his promotion to archbishop, the basic outlines of the process remain the same.

    Stage 1: Bishops' Recommendations
    Stage 2: The Apostolic Nuncio
    Stage 3: Congregation for Bishops
    Stage 4: The Pope Decides
    Each of the stages is explained with a short paragraph in the PDF document.
    There you go, papists - your lunchtime reading! Don't say I never divulge trade secrets. ;-)

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    Monday, April 06, 2009

    New Bishop: Pittsburgh Auxiliary Paul Bradley named Kalamazoo, MI bishop

    The most "overdue" diocese in Michigan gets its replacement today:

    Pope Benedict XVI has named an auxiliary bishop from Pittsburgh to be the new bishop of the 100,000-member Diocese of Kalamazoo.

    The diocese said Monday that 63-year-old Paul J. Bradley replaces Bishop James A. Murray, who submitted his mandatory resignation after turning 75.

    Bradley was born in Glassport, Pa., and attended high school, college and graduate theology studies at St. Meinrad Seminary in St. Meinrad, Ind. He holds a master's in social work degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

    The Diocese of Kalamazoo serves about 100,000 Roman Catholics in Michigan's Allegan, Barry, Van Buren, Kalamazoo, Calhoun, Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties. (AP)

    A canon lawyer, and one-time chancellor of the Lansing diocese. More from the USCCB and Whispers.
    Bishop Cooney of Gaylord, MI is almost a month past his retirement age, while Bishop Hurley of Grand Rapids, MI still has a few years to serve. The other dioceses in MI are at least 10 years until replacement.

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    Thursday, April 02, 2009

    150,000 to join Catholic Church in the U.S. this Easter!

    Praise God!
    As many as 150,000 new or returning Catholics are expected to join the Catholic Church in 2009 in the United States. Many of them will do so at the Easter Vigil liturgies, April 11, in parishes across the country.

    In some cases the numbers show the growth and vitality of the Catholic Church in places where it has traditionally been a small minority. For instance, the Archdiocese of Atlanta estimates that 513 catechumens and 2,195 candidates will join the ranks of the Archdiocese in 2009. About 1,800 of them will do so at Easter. These numbers do not include infant baptisms, which are recorded separately. [More from the USCCB press release.] [Partial listing of numbers-by-diocese here.]
    In comparison, about 135,000 people came into full communion in 2008.

    One of this year's American converts will be present in Rome for Easter (CNA):
    At St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, California resident Heidi Sierras will represent North America at the Easter Vigil, where she will be baptized by Pope Benedict XVI.
    Let's keep these Catechumens especially in our prayers during the last days of Lent and Triduum.

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    Monday, March 16, 2009

    Drastic Parish closings/mergers in Cleveland

    A tragic but increasing phenomenon:
    More than 50 churches in the Diocese of Cleveland were being informed Saturday that their churches would be closing or merging as part of a Diocese-wide consolidation and reconfiguration.

    Cleveland Bishop Richard Lennon on Saturday announced a sweeping reconfiguration of the Diocese, which will result in a net reduction of 52 parishes by June 30, 2010.

    Twenty-nine of the Diocese's 224 parishes will close outright, while another 41 have been instructed to merge with one or more neighboring parishes. The reconfiguration will result in the creation of 18 new, combined parishes, which will likely be re-named. (WKYC)
    Local WKYC also has a spreadsheet and map of church closings/mergers.

    Have you recently been impacted by this process? What are your thoughts about it?

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    Tuesday, March 10, 2009

    Grim times: More Americans say they have no religion

    This story broke yesterday, and it was not a terrible surprise (even as it is a terrible reality):

    A wide-ranging study on American religious life found that the Roman Catholic population has been shifting out of the Northeast to the Southwest, the percentage of Christians in the nation has declined and more people say they have no religion at all.

    Fifteen percent of respondents said they had no religion, an increase from 14.2 percent in 2001 and 8.2 percent in 1990, according to the American Religious Identification Survey. (AP)

    Damian Thompson dislikes being right here, but he is:

    A huge survey of American religious belief was published today, and the results are devastating for those who believe that the USA, unlike "secular" Europe, will always be a nation of churchgoers.

    The percentage of Americans who call themselves Christian has dropped 11 per cent in a generation. And I think this is the beginning of a very long slide.

    Non-believers now outnumber every religious group in America except Catholics and Baptists.

    ... The trend towards religious apathy and improvisation is clearly illustrated by the Obama administration and its supporters: never have there been so many young atheists and agnostics working in the White House and on Capitol Hill. At the moment the Democrats have absorbed most of the non-believers, but secularisation will come to the Republicans, too: don't expect the Religious Right to determine the outcome of future elections.

    Folks, we have work to do. And we can start by attending to our own affairs - becoming more faithful ourselves is the first step to renewing our culture. And we must allow Christ to transform ourselves before He can transform others through us. So, know your faith, live your faith, love your faith. That's the papist way.

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    Wednesday, February 25, 2009

    Dolan hasn't put a foot wrong yet

    As Whispers reports, Abp. Timothy Dolan off to a great start. Let's keep the "American Pope" in our prayers
    (... and yes, as a faithful papist, I can call him that without meaning anything more than a joke by it.)
    One question remains - who will take over Milwaukee in Dolan's absence? {edit - scratch my first idea.}
    And just because I can't help myself, I've created a set on Flickr of Archbishop Dolan fotos.
    Send in your favorite entrees! Here are two of mine:

    [source: Apostleship of Prayer]

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    Wednesday, February 04, 2009

    Photos: Chicago Cathedral Fire & Cleanup

    This story began my reporting today. It seemed appropriate to bookend with these:

    [Photos 1-3: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast. Photo 4: AP Photo/Chicago Sun-Times, Brian Jackson]

    The cause? Still unknown:

    About a dozen fire trucks responded to the church at State and Superior streets, near Northwestern University. Firefighters did an "excellent" job keeping the fire from spreading, Langford said, adding that the cause of the blaze was under investigation.

    Archdiocese officials said the five cardinals' hats, or galeros, suspended from the ceiling were drenched but remain intact. Each hat had been raised after a cardinal's death.

    The fire started in an attic area where major repairs were being made. The cathedral had been closed for six months to undergo major structural repairs and had reopened at the end of August, church officials noted. The current work was being done on support beams. (CNN)

    Perhaps I'm being overly dramatic, but after covering the Marciel and SSPX stories so intensly over the last couple days, this Catherdral fire struck me as a metaphor for the trials the Church is currently undergoing. Cardinal George, when asked about his reaction to the fire, said today:
    "Chicago has always bounced back from fires, and I think we'll bounce back from this one," he said.
    Well, the Church has always bounced back from fires, too, and I know she'll bounce back from this one.

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    Tuesday, February 03, 2009

    Legionaries founder Maciel fathered children, internal investigation reveals

    Welcome, Daily Dish readers - my latest coverage of Legionary founder Marcial Maciel is available here on one page - or scroll down this page for the original story.

    {update 3: Canon Lawyer Edward Peters on what won't, should and could happen to the LCs}

    {update 2: the New York Times has picked-up this story, adding confirmation to this report}

    {update 1: see also my follow-up post: "Legionary reaction to Maciel revelations adequate?"}

    {original story, 9AM EST:}
    Reports of this story have been circulating for several days now, and some figures have even made a veiled mention of its imminent publication.
    They involve new revelations of misconduct by the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Marcial Maciel.
    I'm now receiving multiple confirmations that members of the Legionaries of Christ and its lay branch Regnum Christi are being informed of the findings in their private meetings this week.

    Like it or not, the news is quickly becoming public.

    The Ex LC Blog is claiming that Marcial Maciel is being renounced as the spiritual founder of the Legionaries of Christ, at least in some chapters, due to recent details that have emerged as the result of an internal investigation by the Legionaries {update - this claim is now disputed, of Maciel being "renounced as the spiritual founder, the allegations of misconduct have been confirmed}:

    Today, Fr. Scott Reilly, LC, Territorial Director in Atlanta, Georgia, announced to all those who work in the Territorial Direction of the Legion of Christ, that Marcial Maciel had a mistress, fathered at least one child, and lived a double life. For this reason, the Legion is renouncing him as their spiritual founder.

    Life after LC provides a more comprehensive picture:

    Rumblings began last week about how the Legionaries were gathered in bits and bobs to inform them that the founder was indeed guilty of "certain accusations." The rank and file were told in various places -- some on retreat, others in special meetings. There are some consistent details about the Official Explanation that are trickling in:

    1) Maciel fathered a child who is now in her early 20's;
    2) Maciel offered some money illicitly to his own family;
    3) The current head, Alvaro Corcuera, entertaining his own suspicions, demanded that the case be reopened several years ago;
    4) The health of the Legion depends on denouncing him as founder and moving on.

    I have heard more details in addition (a second child, etc), but in this situation, I tend to think we've already learned enough to make an evaluation. Anything further is simply prurient interest.
    Suffice it to say that Pope Benedict's disciplinary actions against Maciel and interventions in Legionary practice were fully justified, and that the Legionaries of Christ have some hard decisions to make with regards to how they respond to this crisis concerning the founder. The eyes of the world are on them, and the prayers of the universal Church are with them. It is somewhat encouraging to see that the current head of the LC's personally saw to it that a thorough investigation took place. Now let's hope they follow through on their discoveries.

    Other points to consider:
    • There are many good and holy Legionary priests. I have been privileged to know several. The sins of the founder ought never be visited upon their heads, ever. Similarly, the Legionaries of Christ serve the Church in many important ways, these good things they have done must never be ignored.
    • People who entered the Church through contact with the Legionaries of Christ or Regnum Christi, or whose faith life is closely identifiable with the movement, ought not to have their faith in the one true Church of Christ be shaken by the personal faults and failings of Marcial Maciel.
    • However .... there remains a serious charge to be made about how the Legion has handled the allegations of misconduct against Maciel up to this point. Something along the lines of renouncing Maciel as their spiritual founder or perhaps spiritually "re-founding" the order might well be the appropriate response. For a start.
    Related AmP posts from the archives (if you are unaware, I've been covering this for a long time):

    The mainstream media is sure to have a field day on this one. In this storm of coverage, we must not lose sight of our duty as brothers and sisters in Christ to support one another in prayer, and especially to reach out to those hurt and surprised by this news who are part of the Legionaries and Regnum Christi. In these situations we can often become confused and angered, but let us not miss this opportunity to perform spiritual and personal acts of mercy. In all this, a frank admission of the facts at hand are key to moving forward.

    I will be providing continuing coverage of this story as it develops, and will especially await the official response from the Legion.

    {Digg this story, if you want.}

    updates (most recent updates at top):

    • 4:00pm - a full work day after I broke this story, it's starting to get serious attention from other blogs. Rod Dreher weighs in, and notes the strong denial of these allegations that has come from some circles for a long time. Fr. James Martin, SJ, meanwhile speculates over on the America blog what it could mean for the Legionaries to renounce their founder: "It would be as if the Dominicans said, "We're through with St. Dominic."" (Well, Maciel ain't no St. Dominic...)
    • 3:45pm - CNA has managed to track down the Legionary spokesman, Mr. Jim Fair:

    “We’ve learned some things about our founder’s life that are surprising and difficult to understand,” Fair told CNA on Tuesday. "We can confirm that there are aspects of his life that weren’t appropriate for a Catholic priest." Jim Fair goes on to deny that the Legion will denounce Maciel. We'll wait and see about that one. And I agree with Life after RC that this is an inadequate, deeply troubling initial response which I blog about here.

    • 2:30pm - Tom Hoopes, editor of LC-owned National Catholic Register, in Amy's combox:

    "All I want to say is, I’m sorry. I want to say it here, because I defended Fr. Maciel here, and I need to be on the record regarding that defense: I’m sorry, to the victims, who were victims twice, the second time by calumny. I’m sorry, to the Church, which has been damaged. I’m sorry, to those I’ve misled. I did it unwittingly, but this isn’t a time for excuses.

    The Church gave me great, great good in Regnum Christi. The Church did bring justice, and did penalize this man. Thank God for the Church. I seek repentance and forgiveness, and I leave it at that."

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    Monday, February 02, 2009

    Urban Catholic School enrollment down 27 percent in 20 years

    Worse than even the national trend:

    Nationwide, the number of students enrolled in urban religious schools declined by 18 percent to about 1.8 million between 1989 and 2006, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, an arm of the Department of Education.

    Urban Catholic schools were hardest hit, losing 27 percent of their students since 1989, dropping to an enrollment of just over 1 million overall. The Archdiocese of Washington bowed to that trend last spring with the closure of seven of its schools. (DC Examiner)

    The cause?
    “Unlike 100 years ago, the [Catholic] Church has not made [schools] a top priority,” he added.
    100 years ago, Catholic parents weren't contracepting the way they do now (so they had more kids to put through school), the number of religious sisters teaching in schools was dramatically higher, and parish schools never had to be sold off to pay for clergy abuse settlements .... so excuse me if I don't think this is simply a case of misplaced "priorities."

    Whose numbers are up, you may wonder?
    Of religious institutions, only Islamic and Jewish urban schools saw an increase in enrollment and total number of schools. More than 115,000 students are enrolled in urban Jewish schools, and more than 13,000 students in Islamic schools.

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    U.S. Women Religious to receive Apostolic Visitation

    Recently, the Vatican concluded a comprehensive examination of the seminaries and houses of formation for Priests and male religious. Now it has been announced that a similar procedure will take place for religious sisters in the United States. The Associated Press:

    The Vatican has begun a first-ever comprehensive study of women's religious orders in the United States, four decades into a steep decline in the number of Roman Catholic sisters and nuns in the country.

    The study, ordered by a Vatican congregation in December and announced Friday in Washington, will examine "the quality of the life" of 59,000 members in more than 400 Catholic women's religious institutes, said Sister Eva-Maria Ackerman, a spokeswoman for the study, which is called an apostolic visitation.

    For those interested, Cardinal Franc Rode, who will oversee the Vatican-side of things, has a lengthy text on the topic. There is also an official website for the program.

    How the process will work:

    First, Mother Clare will solicit voluntary input from the superiors general through inviting them to make personal contacts with her in Rome or in the United States. During the second stage, the major superiors in the United States will be asked for information such as statistics, activities and community practices. Selected on-site visits will be made during the third stage. During this time, the sisters will have an opportunity to share with the visitation teams their joys and hopes, challenges and concerns about their lives as women religious in the Church today. The final stage will be the compilation and delivery of a comprehensive and confidential review by Mother Clare to Cardinal Rodé. (PDF file)

    My initial reactions:
    • Check-ups are always a good thing. Broadly speaking, however, female religious orders have not exhibited the same set of problems as many seminaries and houses of formation for male religious did (particularly in recent decades). Nevertheless, accountability to the Vatican and attentiveness to the needs of and concerns about female religious should yield good fruit.
    • The initiative appears well-run at the outset. The website, transparency of the process, etc., are welcome changes of pace from the (sadly) more typical situations of bureaucracy and inneficiency that plague these sort of huge undertakings.

    But that's just me. I'd especially be interested to hear what people closer to the process are thinking, especially religious sisters, although obviously many cloistered orders and sisters in their postulancy stage don't always have access to the internet (or time to fritter away on humble blogs like my own). Still, it's worth a shot.

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    Sunday, January 18, 2009

    Sen. Biden given standing ovation at DC Mass

    Jeff Miller puts this little escapade in the category of "things that make you scream":

    "[Vice-President Elect Joe] Biden and his wife, Jill, sat in a pew reserved for him and his family toward the back of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, and listened as the Rev. Larry Madden, S.J., delivered a sermon about God as a constant anchor and the promise of hope and change for those who believe.

    ".... Toward the end of the 11:30 a.m. Mass, as one of the lectors urged those in attendance to welcome new members and visitors, some in the congregation laughed and then applauded, looking toward Biden. He eventually stood and acknowledged the response that included a standing ovation. (AP)"

    My initial reaction was to go "Puke! Gag!" - But let's try to think about this a little more seriously...
    This episode perfectly illustrates the contrast between "identity Catholicism" and "conviction Catholicism." By these two phrases I mean:
    • "identity Catholicism" reduces the term Catholic to a merely technical description: in this way Joe Biden is a Catholic. He was baptized, attends Mass, puts "Catholic" on his questionnaire.
    • "conviction Catholicism" identitifies that one allows their Catholic faith to shape their life, and therefore one actually tries to abide by it, in this way Joe Biden is not a Catholic: He is woefully ignorant of what his own faith teaches (as his Meet the Press interview made crystal clear), and shows little desire to put his faith into action when it comes to issues as fundamental as safeguarding human life, for a start.

    So what do I see when I am told about a Catholic congregation giving Joe Biden a standing ovation? People who care more about "identity Catholicism" than about "conviction Catholicism." Yes, Joe Biden is technically "Catholic" in identity, but is he a Catholic to single out for the his conviction in the faith?

    We have lots of work to do.

    Oh, and Holy Trinity is within walking distance of my new apartment. Politics makes for strange neighbors.

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    Friday, January 16, 2009

    Update: Catholic Bishops Bash ACLU Lawsuit

    I reported on this disturbing development earlier in the week.

    Now the bishops are responding:

    The nation's Catholic bishops are bashing an ACLU lawsuit against the Bush administration to make them provide abortions for victims of sex trafficking. The pro-abortion law firm sued the Department of Health and Human Services saying it shouldn't let the USCCB prohibit abortions for those women.

    .... In a statement sent to on Thursday, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said the ACLU lawsuit is "without merit and an affront to religious liberty."

    Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee for Migration and Refugee Services, said the ACLU would only further exploit women by making the USCCB work with abortion businesses.

    .... Wester told that the lawsuit would hurt, not help, trafficking victims and would violate the First Amendment religious liberty rights of the USCCB.(LifeNews)

    Suit up, folks, there's more to come I'm sure.

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    Thursday, January 15, 2009

    Breaking: Vatican report on US Seminaries released

    CNS is first to press:

    An apostolic visitation team concluded that U.S. Catholic seminaries and houses of priestly formation are generally healthy, but recommended a stronger focus on moral theology, increased oversight of seminarians and greater involvement of diocesan bishops in the formation process."

    This visitation has demonstrated that, since the 1990s, a greater sense of stability now prevails in the U.S. seminaries," the report said. "The appointment, over time, of rectors who are wise and faithful to the church has meant a gradual improvement, at least in the diocesan seminaries."

    The report, sparked by the sexual abuse crisis that hit the U.S. church, concluded that seminaries appeared to have made improvements in the area of seminarian morality, most notably with regard to homosexual behavior.

    "Of course, here and there some case or other of immorality -- again, usually homosexual behavior -- continues to show up," the report said. "However, in the main, the superiors now deal with these issues promptly and appropriately."

    The report was dated Dec. 15 and signed by Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, head of the Congregation for Catholic Education, which deals with seminaries. It was published on the Web site of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to coincide with National Vocation Awareness Week, which began Jan. 12.

    You can read the entire report here online (warning: PDF file).

    The Catholic Key has early, and helpful commentary.

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    Tuesday, January 13, 2009

    ACLU sues HHS over Catholic human-trafficking victim care

    The Boston Globe article fails to mention some important details, but here's the gist:

    The US government is allowing a Catholic organization to limit a program for human-trafficking victims to groups that do not provide access to abortion or birth control, the American Civil Liberties Union charged yesterday in a lawsuit filed in Boston.

    The US Department of Health and Human Services hired the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2006 to help immigrants who had been forced into prostitution or slave labor. The bishops have disseminated millions of dollars in federal funding the past two years to an array of nonprofits, including the International Institute of Boston, that directly assist victims.

    .... Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the Catholic bishops in Washington, acknowledged the restrictions, saying they are in keeping with the church's religious and moral beliefs. She said they won the federal contract because they offer an extensive network of services for victims, including access to healthcare, housing, and job training. The bishops have received about $6 million in federal funding to aid more than 600 victims nationwide.

    Reuters gets a little more specific:
    Sister Mary Ann Walsh of the bishops' conference said the $6 million figure cited in the suit was the full amount authorized. But "far less" money had been appropriated, she said without giving a figure.

    "The problem of trafficking in this country is huge and serious and the Catholic Church has the best network of services bar none," she said. "Going to the Catholic Church for social services is very logical."
    Mary Ann Walsh hits the nail on the head: the fact that this organization is Catholic is irrelevant to the reality that the Catholic Church is objectively the best "contractor" to provide these services.

    The ACLU is simply using the Church's firm opposition to abortion and contraception as a wedge to drive the Church out of the human services marketplace. Now that's discrimination. If the ACLU wins this suit, we can expect them to continue harassing Church organizations that dispense federal monies.

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    Monday, January 05, 2009

    Native Son Allen Vigneron appointed Archbishop of Detroit

    A fitting story to mark the resumption of AmP Catholic news coverage, and an event long-awaited on these pages: Bishop Allen Vigneron (of Oakland) has been nominated as the new Metropolitan Archbishop of Detroit, MI. He will take position quickly, on the 28th of this month.
    My email inbox has been humming with local updates, for six years I lived in Michigan, and for two years I attended school at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, so suffice it to say, we've been waiting for this news for a long time, because Cardinal Maida's retirement date was almost two years ago.
    Bp. Vigneron is coming home to the archdiocese where he previously served as an auxiliary. He is also the first Michigan-native to hold the office. He is all but guaranteed to be made a Cardinal in the next consistory.
    Bp. Vigneron's nomination is an especial boon to Sacred Heart because he served as its rector from 1998-91 and again from 1994-2003. Monday is not a typical day of the week for the Vatican to announce a US appointment, but today was the first day of classes at Sacred Heart, so it is appropriate for at least that reason.
    Detroit has 1.5 million Catholics, the sixth largest US diocese. The Vatican made many, many other appointments today (one of which I'll get to in good time), part of a post-Christmas avalanche of international episcopal housekeeping, I imagine.
    For the outgoing Cardinal Maida, the Michigan Catholic Conference has published a web page to pay tribute to his service to the Church in Detroit these many years. Bishop-designate Vigneron will take over Cardinal Maida's Chairmanship of the Michigan Conference of Catholic Bishops. Rocco has excellent coverage and you can follow this page for an updating feed of related stories. Fr. Z's comment box is a good place to look for more informed reactions and interesting tidbits. Bp. Vigneron has a particularly solid and vocal record on life issues, which will come in handy as Michigan attempts to continue building up a medical/pharmaceutical industry.
    I think Bp. Vigneron is very good news for Detroit. He knows it well, in several capacities, and has proven himself an excellent pastor of souls in each. He seems very pleased about the appointment, even in the face of the significant challenged facing anyone who takes up the office.
    More as I hear it....

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    Tuesday, December 02, 2008

    US Bishops to get extra year to prepare Ad Limina report

    Until mid-2010, is the bottom-line. This delay caused by the Vatican's considerable backlog.

    The Vatican's considerable backlog caused by several factors, including many new bishops:

    According to the Vatican's official statistical yearbook, at the end of 1983 there were 2,285 diocesan bishops in the world and they had 651 coadjutor or auxiliary bishops.

    By the end of 2006 -- the year covered in the most recent edition of the yearbook -- there were 2,705 diocesan bishops with 606 coadjutor or auxiliary bishops.

    In essence, that means that in 1983 the pope would have had to meet an average of 457 diocesan bishops each year in order to see them all every five years. By 2006, the average number of meetings needed each year rose to 541. (CNS)

    Here's a solution: let me meet with them first, and I'll screen out the baddies. ;-)

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    Saturday, November 15, 2008

    Update: SC priest "repudiated" for his pastoral letter?

    Joseph Abrahams at Fox News claims so, and cites a new statement from the Apostolic Administrator of the Charleston Diocese Msgr. Martin Laughlin (who's standing in until a new bishop is appointed), who said:

    "Father Newman's statements do not adequately reflect the Catholic Church's teachings. Any comments or statements to the contrary are repudiated""

    You can read his full statement here (PDF). Also:
    A video from Laughlin has likewise been posted by the diocese. According to one well-placed source on the ground, the understanding also included Newman pulling his statements from the parish site (a development which had reportedly taken place later Friday evening; the St Mary's site was inaccessible, ostensibly due to a heavy number of hits). {Whispers}
    I said in my first post on this story that I was surprised that the diocesan spokesman took a position in support of Fr. Newman. Frankly, I think it's above his pay grade, and obviously Msgr. Laughlin had his own ideas. (update: of course, one would hope the spokesman was not acting in good faith, and then subsequently contradicted by Msgr. Laughlin.)
    My AmP Poll asking the question "Do you agree with Fr. Newman's Letter" is currently registering 69.5% yes, 21.1% no, and 9.5% undecided with 749 votes registered. I think it's very clear where the majority of AmP readers stand on this question.
    But perhaps I should clarify my position: while one might agree or disagree with the substance of his letter, I would still say the prudence of the letter remains doubtful. Msgr. Laughlin also said that Fr. Newman's actions "diverted the focus from the Church’s clear position against abortion." That's really what's at issue here: how to pastorally yet powerfully and effectively preach this message.
    That said, I'd rather see a few mistakes committed out of zealousness then witness continuing silence caused by cowardice. If we're trying to balance on the edge of a knife, there's a better side to err on.

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    Thursday, November 13, 2008

    AmP Poll: Was SC priest right to suggest confession for Obama voters?

    You can vote in the AmP Poll at the bottom of this post. But first, the details....

    Michael Paulson at Articles of Faith:

    The pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church in Greenville, SC, is urging parishioners who voted for Barack Obama not to present themselves for Communion unless they go to confession first because they have cooperated with "intrinsic evil'' by voting for a candidate who supports abortion rights over a candidate who does not. The Rev. Jay Scott Newman told the Greenville News that he doesn't intend to deny anyone Communion, but made it clear that his view is that Obama voters should not present themselves without seeking penance first "lest they eat and drink their own condemnation.''

    The relevant passage from Pastor Newman's letter:

    Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exists constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and those Catholics who do so place themselves outside of the full communion of Christ’s Church and under the judgment of divine law. Persons in this condition should not receive Holy Communion until and unless they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance, lest they eat and drink their own condemnation.

    Before I get into the reactions, my four observations:
    1. not quite: The common teaching on this matter has been that it gravely wrong to vote for a pro-choice candidate because you support their pro-abortion stance. This is the common conclusion drawn from, for instance, Cardinal Ratzinger's famous letter. Fr. Newman seems to be arguing that an Obama vote in this case is wrong not because it representes formal cooperation, but because it is a case of material cooperation (because their vote helped elect him)
    2. actually: People who vote for a pro-choice candidate despite there being a pro-life candidate in the running, circumstances being equal, I would say have a poorly-formed conscience ... however, that does not mean they are culpable of any sin if they honestly attempted to inform their conscience, or were misled by third parties, etc.
    3. moreover: individual parish priests should take the lead from their bishops when it comes to the pastoral implications of forming the consciences of their parishioners. There's a reason why no other priest in America has apparently done something like this - a priest ought not to exercise this level of admonition about issues still genuinely up for discussion.
    4. finally: it seems to be that a nation of Catholics that elects Obama by a majority needs education, guidance and leadership about its faith. There are good and bad ways to go about it, and telling people they have just committed a mortal sin isn't the best way. Try teaching them for four years, and if this keeps happening .... well, that's another story.

    Now here's an interesting thing, the parishioners don't seem too upset, at least according to Fr. Newman. Remember who we are hearing this from, of course. I wonder if the parish leans heavily right?

    More amazingly, one could conclude the local diocese of Charleston has Fr. Newman's back:

    "Stephen Gajdosik, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Charleston, told The News that calling parishioners who voted for a candidate who supports legalized abortions to penance is a question of how best to deepen a flock's relationship to God and a move left up to local priests. He said such a move is appropriate and in line with church teaching."

    "Newman said, "An uninformed vote is an irresponsible vote," and that no informed voter this year could have mistaken the candidates' abortion positions." [source.]

    Charleston currently does not have a bishop, instead they have an interim apostolic administrator.
    Anyway, let's talk about it. Is Fr. Newman, strictly-speaking, right or wrong? And if he is right, was he right to go about it in this way? After all, how you preach the truth is important as well. Oh and vote:

    Poll stats here.

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    On the end of Catholic Hospitals

    Ed Morissey at Hot Air tells us how serious the bishops are about not allowing Catholic Hospitals to be forced into performing abortions under FOCA:
    [The bishops will] shut them down and take the losses in order to prevent their use as abortion clinics. To do otherwise, the bishops stated, would be to cooperate in the evil of abortions.

    What kind of impact would that have? The Catholic Church is one of the nation’s biggest health-care providers. In 2007, they ran 557 hospitals that serviced over 83 million patients. The church also had 417 clinics that saw over seven million patients. If they shut down almost a thousand hospitals and clinics nationwide, the US would not just lose a significant portion of available health care, but the poor and working-class families that received the health care would have fewer options.

    Also, the Catholic Church runs this on a non-profit basis, spending vast sums of its money to ensure access for those unable to pay. That’s the kind of model that many on the Left believe should exclusively provide health care — and FOCA would spell the end of the major provider already in that model.
    Notice that point about Catholic hospitals being non-profits? And to think that a common criticism of the Catholic pro-life movement during this election was that, somehow, we aren't serious about providing concrete medical care and assistance to the poor. Simply unbelievable.

    So how serious are democrats and Obama about FOCA? Serious enough to push the Catholic Church in the US out of the health care industry?

    Let's hope drawing these clear lines in the sand will give them pause. We're not blinking first.

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    Wednesday, November 12, 2008

    Breaking: Bishops to present concerns on abortion, other issues to politicians

    CNS - which has lots of coverage, follows the knotted thread:

    With a new administration and a Democratic-dominated Congress about to take office, the U.S. bishops will spell out their concerns about policies and laws that might make abortion more readily available.

    After a total of nearly three hours of discussion in public and private sessions Nov. 11 during their annual fall meeting, the bishops gave their president, Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George, a set of concerns about abortion and other matters to raise in a public statement he will issue on their behalf. The statement was to be completed for final approval Nov. 12.

    Martino tries to get some movement:

    Bishop Joseph F. Martino of Scranton, Pa., said though he realized the statement would not address that topic, "we are going to have to speak as firmly as possible to Catholic politicians who are not merely reluctant to vote pro-life, but are stridently anti-life." He noted that in ages past, U.S. bishops took canonical measures against Catholic politicians who supported institutional racism.

    "We have to have something like that," he said. "I cannot have the vice president-elect (Joseph Biden) coming to Scranton (his childhood home) saying he learned his values there, when his values are utterly against the teachings of the Catholic Church."

    The Church already does have "something like that." The laws are on the books, they're just not being used.

    Tobin (!):

    Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, R.I., said toward the end of the discussion that if the statement were to include everything heard in that session, "you might as well just reprint 'Faithful Citizenship,'" the bishops' 2007 document on political responsibility.

    He said instead the final version should be concise, taking a lesson from Obama's own successful campaign strategy, which focused narrowly on change and hope.

    "That carried him to the presidency," Bishop Tobin said. The bishops need to find a similar succinct approach, he said, "less political, less politically correct and more prophetic. We need somehow to reclaim the prophetic voice on this issue."

    Though I agree with Tobin about "less political, less politically correct, and more prophetic" .... did I just catch a hint that he is admitting Obama reaches people better these days than the bishops themselves? What does it say that Obama can come across as more "prophetic" than bishops who are consecrated into the prophetic priesthood of Christ Himself?
    Talk about a wake-up call.

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    ACORN gets axed by American bishops

    About time:
    he Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) has not yet been able to determine if grants made to ACORN were used for fraudulent voter registration, but has cut off all funding to the community organizing group, Bishop Robert Morin announced on Tuesday.

    Shortly after addressing the full assembly of U.S. Catholic bishops, Bishop Morin spoke to reporters about what the bishops had learned concerning the use of grants from the CCHD to the group Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), which is currently under investigation in 13 states for voter fraud.

    CCHD originally announced in July 2008 that it was suspending funding to ACORN because of the embezzlement of 1 million dollars by the brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke. Today, however, the Bishop Morin went one step further and announced the cancelation of all funding to the group. (CNA)
    Okay, fine, it's a good start - but now let's go deeper and root the rest of this sort of stuff out. It's an embarassment to the Church and demotivates hard-working Catholics from supporting other worthy charities when others betray our trust.

    Does anyone know of a trustworthy 3rd-party watchdog group that keeps a list of both?

    That would be useful.

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    Results: New Bishop chairs announced + analysis

    Conference Secretary:
    Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton: 69
    Bishop George Murry SJ of Youngstown: 150

    National Collections:
    Bishop Michael Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston: 84
    Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas: 139

    Cultural Diversity:
    Coadjutor Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento: 134
    Bishop Terry Steib SVD of Memphis: 92

    Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St Joseph: 97
    Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala of Los Angeles: 129

    Pro-Life Activities:
    Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston: 165
    Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City-St Joseph: 59

    Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington: 140
    Bishop Jerome Listecki of LaCrosse: 85

    I don't know how to evaluate the claim made by some that these elections to bishops chairs are "politically influenced" - i.e., popular bishops get elected and unpopular ones don't. While that certainly seems like a very human temptation, I tend to disbelieve it actually obtains here in any serious way.
    At any rate, some gut reactions:

    And just to shut down one line of disagreement at the outset: I'm not trying to evaluate the "goodness" of these bishops based only on how vocally they preach the Church's teaching about unborn life.

    However, the other side will be going over these chair elections with a fine-tooth comb trying to do the opposite - saying that whenever an outspoken bishop isn't chosen, somehow the American bishops are shunning them. I don't think that is the case. And either way, it's best to know a little bit about their records.

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    Monday, October 27, 2008

    "Holy See to publish document on use of psychology in seminaries"


    On October 30 the Congregation for Catholic Education will issue a new document entitled, “Orientations For The Use Of Psychological Competencies In The Admission And Formation Of Candidates To The Priesthood.”

    ...According to a Vatican official consulted by CNA, the document “is intended to propose clear criteria for establishing an adequate balance between recourse to psychology and spirituality, in order to avoid falling into both a psychology that ignores sin and grace, and a spirituality that overlooks factors related to the human mind and affectivity.” (CNA)

    Without going into details, I have heard that the use of psychology has been abused in seminarian formation programs in the past, and the Holy See has as one its top priorities ... fixing it, and quickly.

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